Sunday, March 27, 2011

A strong foundation

My mother-in-law has a crazy amount of energy. If you know her, you're shaking your head yes right now.

After a successful career in the fashion industry, she took her passion for health and well-being and became certified in Pilates and Gyrotonics training and I'm not even sure what else. She has energy beyond belief, plans fun outings for us (like traipsing around New York's Nolita neighborhood going from art gallery to art gallery) and serves up Ellen-tinis poolside in the summertime.

She taught me a basic tenet of Pilates - the foot is the foundation to a healthy body.  Extend out your toes, expand your feet and walk. Try it now. I'll wait.

Don't you feel so much more in control when you're actively thinking about your foundation? Doesn't it make you feel stronger? More in control?

I thought about this tenet a few days ago and I have been practicing it as I start my re-entry back into my working gal life.

I stood firmly on my two feet as I mingled at the Development Leadership Consortium's 15th reunion last week. At first, I wasn't sure I was ready to go, but I needed to do it for myself. This group has been the cornerstone of my professional life as a fundraiser and the founder is a dear mentor of mine (and so many others). My DLC colleagues are my friends as well, and I had a wonderful time reconnecting with them.  (Being in a room of fundraisers is hilarious - it's our job to know people's business, so the banter was lively.) Our founder gave a brief talk, encouraging us with a simple message: To leave the world a better place than we found it. How lucky I am to hear these words, be surrounded by these kind people, as I begin the journey back from maternity leave to working full-time at my nonprofit.

I stood firmly on my two feet as I ventured downtown into Chicago's Loop by myself with my two little ones to visit my office Friday. Warm co-workers welcomed us, cooed over Jossie and exclaimed how big Jack was. At one point, my daughter was hungry, and I nursed her in my own office, while checking a lone voicemail on my work phone and watching Jack bop around me. I am so thankful for a family-friendly workplace.

I stood firmly on my two feet as I attended a yoga class and bridal brunch for a relatively new - but dear - friend to Jeremy and me today. She is getting married in a few weeks, and I was honored to spend time with her and her friends (funny aside: As I was prepping for yoga, I told Jossie that maybe I would find a Mommy and me yoga class for the two of us. A little voice piped up beside me, "And big brother too!"). I spent a total of five hours away from the house for this outing - the most I've been away from Jossie since we brought her home. I survived, and, quite honestly, it felt really good to do something for myself.

Feet firmly planted, I think I'm ready for my next chapter...working-outside-of-the-home mom of two. Who's in for happy hour?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My prince...most days

Jack's been acting very three lately (yes, I'm making it an adjective) so when he asked Maria if he could buy flowers for Mommy, I just had to record the sweet moment:

Thursday, March 17, 2011


My dining room has been turned upside-down since January. While I'm a very neat and organized person normally, my dirty little secret is if I let things go, they go downhill fast.

I've finally caught up on some paperwork, dealing with hospital bills and getting our income tax documents in order. Once I got that important stuff out of the way, I could concentrate on the other messy piles. This morning, I pulled one backpack out I had at the hospital. I just knew there was something in there about Jossie's birth certificate that I should address.

From the backpack, I took out a February Martha Stewart Living magazine, a rumbled bag of chocolate toffee from my friend Marisa, the book I was reading and a hospital notepad. These items had sat by my hospital bedside for two weeks. I had looked at them as I was hooked up for non-stress tests to monitor Jossie's in-utero heartbeat. I had looked at them in the early-morning haze after Jossie's birth. I had looked at them as I packed my bags on the day I was released from the hospital and wondering where I was going to summon the strength to leave without my baby.

 I looked at them today and couldn't control my tears. Luckily, Jack and Maria were steps away, and they gave me hugs and support. The sun is shining, birds are chirping, and Jossie is fast asleep in her crib, growing  and growing.

I'm not perfectly healed yet, and I know I will have moments like these as the feelings I've packed away come back in little waves. Thank goodness for the coming of spring, Passover and Easter for a sense of renewal. Thank goodness for friends and family. Thank goodness for good health and growing children.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


We’re getting a preview of spring today…sunny skies and warmer temperatures. The sliding glass door is wide open in our condo, and my morning activities will certainly ensure that we will have another snowstorm in Chicago. I scrubbed the salt from our boots, shook the rugs outside and washed the floors (not too big of a feat – our apartment is small) and put away the flannel sheets. Jack hit the zoo with Maria and soaked in the rays of sunshine and breathed the fresh air.

                                                                                                                 from Maria

Jossie and I went for a long walk this afternoon. I pulled her shade back and let her get a healthy dose of Vitamin D. It was good for our minds and spirits to just walk and walk. We stopped by a Starbucks, and one man exclaimed, “a new baby!” I just smiled. If my two-month-old looks like a new baby then that gives me more time to lose the baby weight!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Trying something new

Thank you to P&G’s Have You Tried This Yet? program and Kroger for sponsoring my writing about trying new things and breaking out of my everyday routine. Click here to find great savings on high-performing P&G products at a Kroger store near you. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

This past weekend, Jack remarked at how yellow the sun was as we were driving in the car. It was one of those rare moments when the sun was actually shining in Chicago.  Oh, Chicago in early-March - your typically colorless skies and chilly temperatures that chap my hands and face - you are just not a pretty sight.

So, I admit, up until last year, I had never done the whole spring break thing. Living in the Midwest my entire life, I did not even know what I was missing. But that changed when I broke from the everyday routine, and Jeremy and I headed to Mexico to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary one year ago.

We literally left behind a snowstorm when we departed Chicago for our getaway. Four hours later by plane, we were in warmth and sunshine. We quickly shed our city black wardrobe for soft cottons in bright colors. Margaritas in hand, we felt the pristine white sand tickle our feet and felt the sunshine warm our bare shoulders.  We spent our days reading books on the plush beach beds at our resort, overlooking the Caribbean blue waters.  We spent our evenings dining on fresh produce and fish by candlelight; the soft sounds of waves in the background.

I broke from my everyday routine in a few ways on this trip: This was also the first major getaway for me from Jack, who was two years old at the time. He did wonderful back in Chicago, being cared for by Maria and BFF Amy.

Breaking from the normal routine, this trip taught me the wonders of going to a completely new place and to realize that sunshine is not an extravagance but a necessity in the wintertime.  It also taught me that a few days away from my kids doesn't have to be the end of the world and, in reality, a happy mommy is a good mommy.  This new adventure for me was completely restorative for my soul and spirit.  This winter aside, I think Jeremy and I will definitely be planning yearly escapes, and I encourage you to do the same.

The high in Chicago the day I took
this photo was 25 degrees.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Act two

Today is Jossie's due date and her seven-week birthday.  She is 6 lb 8 oz and has gained 3 lb 2 oz from her birth weight.

I am an avid reader of my preemie parenting boards and did a search for "due date" yesterday. One mom's comments stuck out out in my mind: Even though her preemie was still in the hospital at her due date, she was tired of mourning of what could have been, when she had her "alive and fighting" daughter right in front of her.

Darn right.

March 7th is a date that has loomed in my mind for weeks.  And I'm ready. I'm ready to celebrate what I have and let go of my this-is-not-how-it-was-supposed-to-happen thoughts.  Jossie continues to grow (mostly in the cheeks), has had no complications and is making eye contact with us.  She even surprises us by holding her head up for a few seconds from time to time.

Seriously, I wasn't kidding about the cheeks.

I went to the doctor's office today for my postpartum appointment. I asked my doctor if she had any more clues about why I went early - anything more than the tightly wound blood vessels in the umbilical cord. She said there was nothing more and it was really just a fluke.  She said it was very unlikely of happening again if we have any more children.

And then the doctor looked at me seriously and said it was a very good thing I came in that January Monday. She said this issue might have been hard to detect otherwise and we might not have the happy ending we had. The word "stillbirth" has a way of really focusing your priorities.

I am ready.

After being given a clean bill of health, I found myself walking over to Prentice. I entered the building and stood in the lobby and breathed in deeply.

And while I'd like to say I had a profound moment of clarity standing in the hospital where I spent so much time, I didn't feel much - no sadness and no great happiness. I opened my eyes and walked over to the tea counter and ordered a few lollipops for Jack and Maria's daughter, Ruby. I didn't even recognize any of the people behind the counter - no one to joke with about my addiction to orange lollipops.

Time to move on.

I'm waking up now from these last few weeks. I'm taking my sisters' advice and celebrating my healthy girl wholeheartedly rather than having a pity party for us both that the last seven weeks did not go exactly as I had planned.

And I was reminded last night of how good I have it with my blessings as I nursed a sleepy Jossie while giving Jack a goodnight kiss.

And tonight - on the day of my due date - instead of slurping on ice chips in a hospital bed, I heartily ate fried chicken and drank sparkling wine with some of my BFFs at West Town Tavern. Surrounded by love and friendship, I am thankful to celebrate with friends who will always have my back.

I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.

I am ready. Bring on March 8th.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A table for four

Jeremy and I ventured out tonight with Jack and Jossie. We went to Feed in Chicago's Ukranian Village. It's a funky place with eclectic decor, colorful strings of lights, loud music and the "egg machine" for Jack. It has counter service and features comfort foods with a Southern bent - roast chicken, mac and cheese, collard greens, pulled pork, the list goes on.

The crowd is mostly hipsters in their twenties and cops from the local precinct. And then there was us - Jeremy is his Brooks Brothers shirt and I in my maternity yoga get-up. Jack - in fact - probably looked most in place there with his dinosaur pajama top (don't ask) and his skull cap.

He had a great time - putting quarter after quarter in the egg machine, which gave him a plastic Easter egg with a prize inside, or as I might call them, "choking hazards." Itty bitty little prizes like pirate rings and cheap yo-yos. (Note to self: Hide these before Jossie can crawl). 

It was so nice to be out, even so casual. Jack could dance around, and Jeremy and I actually could talk about our days. And Jossie just snoozed in her stroller.  We even split a piece of homey berry pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (Jeremy has declared that pie is the new cupcake by the way) for dessert before heading out into the chilly Chicago night, our family of four.

2803 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago
Cash only

Preemie moms like their numbers

Preemie moms know dearly the value of a day, a week and a month. Today is a very, very good day. Jossie has officially been home more days than her stay in the NICU. In those 23 days, we have countless cuddles on the couch, book-reading sessions, singalongs, pajama-only days, and monster sightings by Jack.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mama needs coffee

Jeremy and I took Jack today to visit a preschool's open house today. We both wanted to see his reaction to it, so Jossie came along as well. (If you know me well, you're probably wondering where Maria was. Well, the mighty has fallen to sickness. She is currently getting some well deserved rest and letting antibiotics do their magic.)

After all of my talk about being scared to death of germs, preschool is probably the LAST place you'd expect me to take Jossie, but it was a small group and we kept her away from everyone. We did have some curious onlookers (who can resist peeking into a baby carriage?) and one mother struck up conversation with me about my preemie and our experience. I have my talking points pretty well down at this point...three weeks in the NICU...we're blessed she was healthy, just small....we go to the pediatrician every other know the drill. It was interesting to recount our experience and see a stranger's reaction. It was good to see that she was rooting for us - and not an ounce of pity. That's exactly what I want. We even kidded about my imprisonment at Prentice Women's Hospital - which some call the Four Seasons East (be sure to try the chicken potpie).

Back to Jack: The verdict is in, and the boy loves preschool and everything it stands for. He loved the blocks, trucks, trains, play kitchen, the pet bunny and the three orange fishies. As we took a trip from the classroom to the gym, I lost him for a moment, only to realize I didn't recognize my own son because he was walking in line with the other kids. When in Rome...

My children and I had an exhausting afternoon. After dropping Jeremy back at work, we stopped briefly at home and avoided any and all naps. An hour later, we were back in the car, off to Children's Memorial Hospital for Jossie's test. Since she was born breech, we needed to do an ultrasound to check her hip sockets (nothing to do with her being a preemie). As we were looking at the ultrasound - with all six pounds of Jossie wailing - I had flashbacks of looking for amniotic fluid pockets and fetal movement.  Everything checked out fine today, thankfully.

Children's has wonderful doctors - the NICU team is affiliated with them and we've had some minor, outpatient experiences with Jack. The facility itself is tired-looking but soon they will be in their new fancy digs downtown. And I hope we never have to visit that new facility!

As we walked the hallways, I thought I might have tougher skin now since I'm a NICU veteran. But I was wrong. Oh, I was wrong, dear reader. I saw one little one being wheeled down the hallway, his parents following behind, looking haggard and carrying plastic personal belongings bags. I saw a 7-year-old girl crying, as she was about to be wheeled into a room for perhaps a test or procedure as the nurses sweetly soothed her.

Seeing this makes me feel what those parents and children are feeling - why us? While the rest of the world is going about their business figuring out what's for dinner or waiting for the bus, time stands still for these souls and is a series of numbers, tests and results. And I try to do for them what I would want: I root for them. I say a prayer and can't help but thank God for my children.

I grip Jack's hand and Jossie's stroller handle tighter. I looked at Jack and say firmly, "Mama needs coffee." I buy Jack the most garish lollipop from the coffee shop because he asked for it, and because he's healthy and Jossie's healthy and I'm happy. We're worried about preschools and not sleeping through the night and changing Jossie's outfit eight times a day, and that's exactly where we should be.